When They Bought Us Out

“[W]hite supremacy exists not external to the class, but as a perversion of its own interests.”

From Shane Burley

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Based on a speech delivered at The Potter’s House in Washington D.C. on June 19th, 2017.

The days that followed Donald Trump’s unlikely election were a red-carpet moment for Twitter nationalists.

Richard Spencer made his fame in the wake of Trump’s run, as the Alt Right rose in public recognition as the new leadership for a fascist movement made visible. Spencer was the President of the National Policy Institute; a white nationalist think tank that built up an intellectual underpinning to a self-conscious fascist movement. It knew what it was, and it didn’t lie.

He had been holding posh conferences in the heart of Washington D.C. for years, and he planned his November 2016 conference just after the election. It was going to be a celebration or a recommital to accelerationism, whatever worked. In front of a crowd of suits and MAGA hats Spencer berated the press and gave a raucous speech, going fully explicit with the language with which he saw his movement.

“To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer, and a conqueror. We build, we produce, we go upward. And we recognize the central lie of American race relations. We don’t exploit other groups. We don’t gain anything from their presence. They need us, and not the other way around. Whiteness, or rather identity, is being forced on the deracinated, consumerist “last man” that is European America. No one is going to be permitted to escape this process. Great historical changes are imminent when people are forced into a binary choice, fight or flee, join or die, resist or cuck. That is the position of white people right now.”

That speech finished with an explosion from the crowd when Spencer yelled “Hail Trump! Hail Our People! Hail Victory.” The Roman Salutes that dotted the audience made sense, and the liberal media loved it.

One year later, at the November 2017 NPI conference, things had changed. The infighting in the Alt Right began almost immediately, with the revolutionary white nationalists separating from the Trump Republicans. Antifascist mass actions began to disrupt any functioning event the Alt Right had, from Spencer’s campus appearances to Identity Evropa’s brief attempts at anti-immigrant rallies. Then there was Charlottesville, a window into the reality of what the white nationalist movement is capable of, and the mass media platform denial that came as a result. Social media, podcast hosting, YouTube, and almost all venues for their expression were halted; their message, and money, began to flounder in the wake.

This year, they were no longer allowed the Ronald Reagan building in D.C.’s City Center, but instead had to rent an unheated barn in rural Pennsylvania. They could not secure another venue, no one would rent to them: it simply wasn’t worth it. During the event Spencer did an interview with author Angela Nagle for a documentary on the Alt Right, discussing the state of their movement and Spencer’s vision for a great white empire.

When Nagle asked what he would do with the American whites who did not want the vision he promised, he had a binary choice. “Then we will force them to be free.”

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Fascism is not just a system of obtuse and indecipherable totalitarianism. It is not simply the decisive rule from the top. It is populist: meaning, in a sense, it is popular. It is a movement that has to be rooted in the people. Fascism was not popular in an era before mass politics, when aristocratic elites ruled by decry without the charade of mass democracy. Fascism rises and rules by the mass participation of segments of the working class, a point which many have tried to ignore. It is the flaws in democracy it hopes to exploit, to expose the lies of extra-judicial violence and control that allow the system to continue.

As a revolutionary movement which seeks to undermine some of the basic assumptions of Western liberalism, fascism rises from the same conditions that the radical left does: economic strife, dehumanizing living conditions, racial conflict, state repression, and the range of violence marked by modern capitalist society. This creates the turmoil, a revolutionary spirit that can tip over into a number of directions. The rage of the marginalized classes is always sincere and valid, yet its purity guarantees nothing about outcomes.

One element that can pivot and distort class rebellion is the meager benefits that a privileged class of workers have. This is to say, the more white, male, or otherwise marginally-benefited workers have, the more advantages they see above their counterparts. A reactionary privileged class, desperate to hold on to those privileges in a world of uncertainty and competition, have the longest tradition of patented self-destruction. The inability of white workers to see the benefits of anti-racist solidarity, the strength that comes from class unity only possible through a revolutionary refusal of white supremacy, has been the bargain made for decades in an attempt to grasp at that privilege.

This choice has been the Achilles Heel of the worker’s movement, and largely all left mass movements, and enacts arson on liberation. The push in the labor movement to bait out immigrants, including demonizing immigrant labor, was a bid to raise wages for domestic workers. However, it ignored the fact that those meager wage gains were nothing compared to what could have been achieved if a true internationalism was embedded. The benefits of male social caste came at the cost of crushing patriarchy, the kind of rigid gender roles that have cost men the ability to hold relationships and live with themselves as they are. The exchange has been made, and for pennies now they lost thousands.

The mass politics of fascism is built on the white working class, it cannot exist without it. They are what gives it strength, people, anger. They are the enforcers, even the vanguards, even if they are not the beneficiaries. This reality has to be confronted: white supremacy exists not external to the class, but as a perversion of its own interests. But whose fault is it? As the left recedes into urban college campuses, internalize jargon, and failed liberal movements, where is the white working class? Is it organizing?

No one needs to tell us to organize, to survive. We do it every day, and we do it without the organized left. There is no reason to believe, however, that this is always in a direction we could celebrate, or even accept. The old IWW slogan of “if you aren’t talking to your co-worker, someone else is” with the silhouette of a Klansman rings true, and the anger of the white worker class has nowhere to go but down. Their energy, built on de-industrialization, falling real wages, and the true reality of working life rises; it has been effectively turned upon itself and on immigrants, women, queers, and people of color.

This is not eternal, it has not always been this way. While the shift has taken place, the left has always been there, a step away to mock, criticize, and remain insular, losing popularity as it loses the class.

This is a call to engage all members of the working class in fundamental change, but it is not a declaration to ignore the reality of violent white supremacy coming from people with similar paychecks to our own. We have to prioritize defense in times of repression and supremacist insurrection, including building networks of community protection against white nationalist attacks and the growing infrastructure of genocide in the state. While white workers have not largely sided with movements like the project to Abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcment (ICE) system, we push ahead without apology.

Regardless, white workers benefit from a deeply revolutionary antiracist movement, one that drives out divisions in the working class. Such a movement can do so only by uprooting actual inequality and destroying racism, both interpersonal and institutional. When white workers give up privilege by undoing the system of institutionalized white supremacy, they will get solidarity in return. This provides real power, not just the illusion of freedom so many cling to.

A movement like that can destroy all borders, wages, bosses, and states. And to do that we need everyone together, with foundations that were built consciously. A working class movement does not abandon the work at road blocks, or offense, or even trauma; instead, it sees the reclamation of the class as inherent to a revolutionary process. This doesn’t stop the work: there are two projects ahead, revolution against the top and the rebuilding of the class. This is a permanent work in progress, a permanent revolution.

This doesn’t mean every white worker will read your pamphlet, hear your speech, and join your movement. And why would they? Organizing rests on more than that: the legitimacy of shared class identification and matching of idealism with material conditions. It won’t work universally, and the “false consciousness,” or even parallel consciousness, lingers in huge swaths of people whose mythology of self is cemented in the whiteness offered as a consolation prize. That doesn’t matter, though: they benefit from the destruction of whiteness just the same.

So that means going forward. And if they tell you they don’t want it, then we will give them a binary choice. We will force them to be free.


Shane Burley

12375190_1270053539678590_6582607531732468985_oShane Burley is a writer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon.  He is the author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How We Stop It (Forthcoming 2017, AK Press). His work has been featured in places like In These Times, ThinkProgress, Roar Magazine, Labor Notes, Make/Shift, Upping the Ante, and Waging Nonviolence. He can be found at ShaneBurley.net, and on Twitter @Shane_Burley1


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The Identity Politics Glitch

“When neoliberals ask for “diversity”, or more opportunities for the disenfranchised to franchise themselves, what they want is to hand out “white masks” to people of colour as if it’s charity.”

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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“The colonial world is a world divided into compartments. It is probably unnecessary to recall the existence of native quarters and European quarters, of schools for natives and schools for Europeans; in the same way we need not recall apartheid in South Africa. Yet, if we examine closely this system of compartments, we will at least be able to reveal the lines of force it implies. This approach to the colonial world, its ordering and its geographical layout will allow us to mark out the lines on which a decolonized society will be reorganized.”

Frantz Fanon [1]

Identity Politics is the concept that puts “Black” in Black Panther, “Gay” in Gay Pride, “Gender” in Gender Performativity, “Jewish” in Jewish Diaspora, “Women” in Women’s Rights, and, dare I say it for the Marxists out there, “Working” in Working-Class. If there is hierarchy, there is hegemony; and those who are not identified as members of the leading social group are subject to harsh authoritarian treatment. For the oppressed, an identity is a constant imposition, not something someone puts on when they feel like it, or perform occasionally. Black people can’t detach from their skin, being inside or outside of the closet is a struggle, the gender dichotomy is omnipresent, we live the Christian calendar and traditions everyday, toxic masculinity creeps at every corner, and back-breaking work barely makes ends meet (if there is work).

Organising under a shared identity can be liberating. Not feeling alone in the struggle, knowing that the problem is not you being a freak, and that together we can really make a difference for everyone. Not to mention the self-esteem boost of shared cultural practices, physical and emotional self-expression.

Recognising a shared identity means also recognising differences with others. Recognising differences isn’t necessarily separatist, it’s a unifying practice because we bond based on shared experience (as opposed to being-the-same), and we support each other in the intersections between different struggles. According to Frantz Fanon, these different categories have been put in place by colonial forces. Carefully observing them, analysing why they were put in place, by whom, and in what ways these categories manifest themselves now is quite essential for building a decolonized world.

Sounds beautiful, but of course nothing is that perfect. Some interpret this organisational style as “tribalism”, which is something that can be used to weaken a wider movement of resistance against capitalism by inciting conflict between so-called “tribes”. Colonisers exploited already existing tribal disputes, and today’s hegemony has inherited this practice towards social justice movements. However, to argue that tribalism is the problem in this case is a perpetuation of the colonial attitude that imposes Western values on non-Western people. The problem is not how indigenous people were organising themselves, but instead how they were exploited.

Today, being “officially” recognised as Native American requires a DNA test that proves the opposite of the “one-drop-rule”. Meaning, instead of the claim that one drop of “black blood” makes you black, one drop of “non-indigenous blood” makes Native Americans not Native. This is a type of racial violence that distorts and restricts indigenous heritage and existence. Furthermore, it reduces the acknowledgment of identity to the extent to which it’s convenient to the Government to acknowledge it, rather than actually respecting what indigenous identity means to indigenous people. DNA is not all that matters, and it doesn’t even distinguish between different tribes. Much of Native identity is about participation in a particular tribe and practices. It should be up to that tribe to grant nationhood to a member [2].

Governmental restrictions of people’s affirmation and expression of identity is what leads to the extinction of tribes, and a complete erasure of heritage. This contemporary practice is very much related to the colonial practice of forced Christian conversions and marriages in Brazil. Fanon would call that white masks, but I’ll bring that up again later in the article. For now we can call it a bloodless genocide, where numerous peoples were forced into extinction through Western assimilation.

When it comes to bloody genocide there is no stronger voice than that of Africans in the diaspora. Black identity isn’t alienating in the way white identity is, so let’s be careful to not tell people of colour that they “misunderstand the nature of race”. The Identitarian movement [3], which is lead by an Austrian man who wants to preserve white identity and fortress Europe, is in no way comparable with the Pan-Africanist movement [4], which aims to restore nationhood to Africans in the continent and in the diaspora. There is nothing racist about Pan-Africanists saying they don’t want white people directly involved in their organisations, it’s a fair strategy to combat white supremacy that should be respected and supported.

None of these identity based political movements have to interfere with the wider movement of resistance against capitalism. Saying that organising under a shared identity distracts from organising against the capitalist ruling class is like saying beehives and honey-making distract from pollination. It doesn’t, they complement each other, especially if we have an intersectional approach. What interferes is white people feeling entitled to show up at other people’s “hives” and start telling them what they are doing wrong and what they should be doing instead.

Another thing that interferes is awesome movements getting cooped by capitalist forces (like politicians and corporations). That’s why nowadays it’s apparently hard for people to separate Identity politics from Hilary Clinton, since she took this side of the debate against Bernie, who claimed the let’s-all-unite-against-capitalism argument [5]. But Hilary is no more representative of Identity Politics than Ivanka Trump is representative of Toni Morrison’s descriptions of female slave labor [6]. Just because one (mis)quotes the other doesn’t mean they are representative of each other, just as Urban Dictionary isn’t all there is to a term’s definition.

Identity politics doesn’t only mean practicing reverse social exclusion [7] and creating safe(er) spaces based on race, culture and gender [8], or a hypocritical reproduction of the discrimination we claim to be fighting against.

In a previous article [9] I discussed how colourblindness is not anti-racist, it’s in fact a careless exercise of (white) privilege, and how categorising others while remaining neutral is an essential strategy for the persistence of White Patriarchy. White people do what they want, when they want [10], and I object when white men tell people of colour and queers that their identity based communities makes them feel discriminated against. Masculinity and whiteness are also socially performed identities, but they are imposed on most of the world as an objective, neutral, and superior state of being. Listening to so-called-others helps one understand why these identity based communities are so important in facing such an incredibly hostile world.

Even Anzaldua [15], who rejected oppositional identity politics and idealized a post-racial world, acknowledged that she would “stop using labels. That’s what [she] want[s] to work towards. But until we come to that time, if you lay your body down and don’t declare certain facets of yourself, they get stepped on.”

That is not to say identity politics can’t be problematic. Some approach it superficially and end up throwing empty statements around that focus more on personal image than on genuine social change: when causes become trends. An example of this is how in the last 10 years, Zwarte Piet [11] has been more widely condemned in the Netherlands. While that in itself is positive, it can be a problem when Dutch people think that taking a stance against this tradition is an opportunity to earn a not-racist badge. It’s important to avoid interpreting certain things as the problem, but instead as symptoms of a much bigger problem. This way we ensure that Dutch Racism doesn’t manifest itself in other ways.

Another issue that rises from Identity Politics is the expectation of homogeneity. Kimberle Crenshaw thought us over 20 years ago [12] that when feminist circles attempt to homogenise womanhood and the experience of sexism, they erase the different forms of oppression women of colour experience, and consequently erasing black womanhood itself. Today we can say the same for TERF’s [13] and the erasure of the trans experience. This is why identity politics must be perceived as intrinsically connected to intersectionality.

Identity politics is not what brings those compartments Fanon speaks of into existence. We choose to look at them, take them, dismantle them, and from there we can build a new world. Non-Westerners mustn’t be the same as Westerners. In a white supremacist world, assimilation means whitification. The colonised has oppressor and oppressed within, a neurotic inferiority complex, and a survival instinct that leads to a horrible desire to adjust. This is fed and exploited. When neo-liberals ask for “diversity”, or more opportunities for the disenfranchised to franchise themselves, what they want is to hand out “white masks” [14] to people of colour as if it’s charity. What we should have is a world where we can exist without them.

So, what does this debate mean for the woke generation? A complete inability to get over ourselves and just get shit done.


  1. Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon (1965, p.36)
  2. Genetic “Markers”- Not a Valid Test of Native Identity. Blood quantum laws. And a video on the subject can be found here.
  3. The new-right hipsters.
  4. A Britannica definition of Pan-Africanism. Check also the Brazilian political organisation Reaja.
  5. Bernie Sanders still says class is more important than race. He is still wrong.
  6. Ivanka Criticised for quoting Toni Morrison.
  7. For instance calling people out, and banning public displays of cultural appropriation in specific spaces.
  8. For example organizing events, meetings and parties for Queers and PoC only.
  9. White Privilege in Dutch Anarchism.
  10. Joyce Galvão’s private commentary on Mallu Magalhães and cultural appropriation in Brazilian music.
  11. Zwarte Piet
  12. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color, by Kimberle Crenshaw (Stanford Law Review, 1991).
  13. Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.
  14. Black Skins White masks by Frantz Fanon.
  15. Gloria E. Anzaldúa was a scholar of Latina feminist phenomenology.

Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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Life Coaches and the White Women Who Pay Them

From Prosper Bonhomme: “This isn’t the Catholic Church ladies, you can’t just buy your way out of your entitlement and suck your thumb until the mean, scary intersectional people go away.”

“Who the fuck even listens to these people?”

Day after day, watching this mountain of war crimes climb in front of me, what was once an incredulous question posed with a half-laugh and an eye roll has now turned into a seething catch phrase. I had hoped this bubble would burst. I had hoped this was a simple flash in the pan that would meet its end in a spectacularly quiet fashion, but oh no, this conflict of attrition continues to wage on. I would say that I fear myself succumbing to exhaustion, but in reality, that would be too swift a social media death, too kind for my liking. Instead, I endure, and in doing so I watch this enemy grow stronger, gaining power in the form of keystrokes and page views:

Life Coaches.

But no, not just any life coaches, kids. They are the Spiritual White Woman. They believe in Law of Attraction. They can help you do that same, provided you pay them enough. But let me break down this beast for you so you know what you’re looking at: I’m talking about bleach blonde white women, all of whom craft their social media battlements with eerily similar headshots of themselves in business casual suit jackets as their waving flags. Their banner men hoist their colors in the form of quickly edited stock photos of sunsets and misty forests with inspirational quotes slapped in the foreground. (And if they’re misattributed, who cares? After 500 shares, the truth of anything is relative.)

It isn’t hard to find them, as they want to be found, they build their fortresses with open gates, all the more eager to shepherd in their waiting flocks to become their armies. Their swords are honed from the contracts of their upcoming book deals, their shields are the hundreds of women in their Facebook groups who are glad to serve, much like worker bees for a queen. They are even willing to do the heavy lifting.

They are third wave feminists who sit at the top of the social hierarchy, they’ll hawk “intersectional” feminism like carnival barkers while simultaneously using the emotional labor of women of color to build their foundations even higher. They will do anything in order to make hand over fist in profits for themselves, building their clientele through thinly veiled lies and crafted deceptions. They care only for feminist thought so long as it means they don’t exclude anybody that might be willing to hand them money, which means their morals are circumspect at best. They preach love and tolerance while quietly accepting and preening TERFs, and nursing the emotionally stunted women who can’t seem to handle the mere notion of “white guilt” being something that applies to them.

Now, there’s a part of me that watches this miasma of bullshit with a skeptical laugh and a hearty sip of cider, and there’s another part of me, a part that grows larger every day, that simply squints, hard, at this cycle of battling across social media that I’ve become privy to, all while the same question twists, reforms, and burns in my mouth:

“Who the fuck even pays these people?”

But, the truth is, I know exactly the sort of people that would.

When I was younger, in a desperate attempt to get out of a small Midwestern town I despised, I packed my things and I moved to a house in Dayton, Ohio—which, unsurprisingly, turning into another place I despised, because it is Dayton, Ohio—but I lived under the watchful gaze of a thirty-something blonde woman named Nicole, who sold Mary Kay and also managed a pop culture convention. Living in her house was, in a word, the most hellish experience I’ve ever had in my life, for a multitude of reasons, but up until recently, while I was watching this fantastic shitshow of blonde life coach after blonde life coach come under fire from the privacy of my Facebook scrolling, I never could put my thumb on why I hated living with Nicole so much.

But now, now I understand.

See, Nicole was not a life coach herself, but instead was involved with a much broader, well-known pyramid scheme: the multi-level marketing hellscape known as Mary Kay. Her most poignant tactic in running her business was to hold “fishbowl contests” in order to draw in customers; she would leave glass bowls at local businesses for women to put in their contact information, hoping to win a prize, and she would call them to let them know they won a “free” consult (even though consults were always free) and she would call every single person who left their name and number. It was a scam, pure and simple. Lure them in with a prize that was already free, and hook some money out of them with overpriced facial scrubbing products that didn’t work.

When she would bring clients into the house, I would make myself scarce under threat of death (or worse, eviction) and slink into the shadows to listen in on whatever she told her clients. Every honey drizzled word out of her mouth was sickeningly complimentary, with a hint of up-sell in every syllable. She would worm her way into the personal lives of her clients, asking about their kids, their work, their dreams, all with the intent to utilize her feigned interest as a way to market herself as “believable”, because the person who cared about your personal life would never scam you out of your money.

Pair this, then, with the sickening way she treated her housemates, examples of terrible behavior which included extorting me and another young roommate who shared a prison-cell sized room for outrageous amounts of rent, treating her ex-husband like a dog that deserved to be kicked, and even forcing another roommate to sleep on the floor when there wasn’t enough room in the house for her, and it wasn’t hard to see how duplicitous she was.

We were not allowed to inhabit any more space in her house than was absolutely necessary. We were not allowed to make the house our home, because it would encroach upon her space, and she would feel cheated. It was clear by these behaviors that she was, and still is, a woman that only is interested in her own well-being, and will gladly step on anybody in her way to make herself come out on top. She is a woman who thrives in drama and chaos, because she knows how to connive her way to the top of the heap.

And this, I realize, would make her an excellent life coach. It is not a thought I care to dwell on overmuch.

I see the same behaviors in the life coaches and spiritual guides and religious teachers and “culture makers” that I find scattered across my social media feeds. They all bear the same whitened teeth and flashing smiles that I’ve seen in card sharks and Mary Kay consultants, disingenuous and capricious. They care for intersectional feminism only insofar as how much money it puts in their pocket, and while they preach self-acceptance and self-tolerance, they refuse to allot space for those who may even dream of encroaching on what they see as rightfully theirs. Worse yet, they carve out any sign of negativity in the same vein that I would be carved out of my place of residence if I even dared to show my face during a Mary Kay consulting session—it’s bad for their image if their empowerment branding doesn’t work.

Look now to the life coaches who claim that those who participated in the #metoo solidarity were simply “manifesting” what happened to them, and that in order to be “freed” from it, they had to “forgive” instead. Let that sink in—a culture of entitled, middle aged white women telling people that their abuse, their rape, their pain was merely “manifested” and victim blaming the flocks of women they cater to.

Let me shout it louder, for the women in the back:

“Who the fuck even pays these people?!”

At the risk of sounding like Buzzfeed, the answer may surprise you:

White women.

This isn’t news to me, as a romany. I saw these women when they were still in their infantile stages, hastily picking up the culture of the dead in order to market a “free, bohemian lifestyle” to those who possessed “a gypsy soul” before making a face—heel revolving door a couple years later with a newly minted “woke” hashtag to admonish those who use “that ugly g-word.” (Myself included, which makes me shake my head in disbelief that they can’t even keep track of their own word politics long enough to understand reclamation, but that’s an article in of itself.) They were marketing minority subculture as a lifestyle long before Hillary Clinton took feminism to a more mainstream audience. But bohemia was too confining for them, and it only looked good when they could gentrify a high end production of RENT, so naturally they latched on to a much more marketable “feminist” model instead, and now, shock and awe, they’re running themselves aground.

See, with their former choice of stolen culture, there was no unified voice to tell them to fuck off. Now, as a disclaimer, I’m no scholar on modern romany culture—and guess what, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone within the romany community who is, anymore—but in my experience, we’re still infighting over who actually belongs in our culture and who doesn’t, much less what we think of outsiders using certain words about us. Some say yes, some say no, and without a unified opinion, well, we end up just fighting ourselves while somebody stamps the word “gypsy” on yet another clothing shop selling belly dancing costumes at the Renaissance Faire.

But the fragility of white women continues to hold in the same pattern I’ve seen before, which is why this has blown up far more spectacularly in the last few months than it has in the past. If you want some colorful examples, my suggestion is to simply look at the comment section of any trending status in Pantsuit Nation and watch in horror and revulsion as women of color have to fight for every fucking inch of space they can even hope to claim in a conversation. Do you want an example of something a little closer to home, something a little more personal? Perhaps you should follow the saga of Kelly Diels, and watch that particularly foul shitshow. The group was titled “Culture Makers.” Ha. That has that same “Gypsy Soul” reek to it that I’ve been smelling since my middle school years.

And yet, you keep feeding them. The drama escalates, the mountain rises taller and taller. How many clapbacks are we going to call for? How many calls for kept receipts are going to go up? Is it truly such a desperate time that we’re paying these women to ease us of our privilege? Is this the point where we have to make like Martin Luther and say “enough is enough” to frantic white feminists trying to pay their way out of white guilt? This isn’t the Catholic Church ladies, you can’t just buy your way out of your entitlement and suck your thumb until the mean, scary intersectional people go away.

Is it that it’s just not being taught? I was introduced to the theory of intersectional feminism first and foremost, above all other theories. It was ingrained within my first women’s studies class, within the first week. I was taught to unpack my baggage and see it laid at my feet, to accept it, to utilize it. Why is it that I look around, and the only other truly intersectional feminists that I ever see are all under thirty? Why are these legions of white women flocking to the banner of insincere pyramid scheme bullshit? Is it just a hard concept to grasp, or are we the only generation that bothered to pay attention to the lesson? Are we really the only generation that’s learned that throwing money at somebody else isn’t going to make the problem go away? I’m romany and my ass still finds time to unpack my whiteness. It’s about time you started unpacking yours.

I’ll ask again, and I will keep on asking:

Who the fuck is paying these people?

Because it certainly isn’t my generation.


Prosper Bonhomme

Conjured from the detritus of the Great Black Swamp, Prosper Bonhomme is a nonbinary, egoist anarcho-queer witch. Their writing can be found on Gods & Radicals and Bonhomme Rouler. Bon is also on twitter.


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Cultural Appropriation, Nuance, and ‘Day of the Dead’

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The primary reason that white people, especially white Americans, appropriate from marginalized traditions is because they’ve been stripped of their own. And if we want white Americans to stop doing that, the best remedy is to encourage them to respectfully and carefully learn about and reclaim their own ancestral traditions.

From Alley Valkyrie

I spend a lot of time reading right-wing critiques of leftist tendencies and behavior. I do this not so much because I’m a masochist, but for many practical reasons. Part of it is the old ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ adage, especially in terms of what they’re discussing and thinking as it pertains to me and my kin. But more so, underneath the inevitable layers of distortion and exaggeration and hyperbole, there is almost always a kernel of truth in the critique. Very often that kernel of truth concerns a crucial point of error in the thinking or actions of those on the Left. And that error in thinking is so often related to points of nuance….or lack thereof.

The Left’s lack of attention to nuance only validates and strengthens the critiques of the Right.

Let me say that again for the kids in the back: it greatly strengthens their arguments, and as a result greatly strengthens their base. And in case you’ve been asleep for the past few years, their base is already quite strong, ever growing, and rather terrifying.

One of the best examples of this is the subject of cultural appropriation. Let me make the following clear at the onset: cultural appropriation is an actual problem, one incredibly damaging to marginalized peoples and cultures. That is not up for debate, nor would I ever try to debate it. And the general position of the right-wing (and sadly, far too many liberals as well) is that any and all complaints of cultural appropriation are nothing more than the overly-PC whining of “snowflakes”. Which is false. Absolutely false.

However, one of the things that has led the Right to such a conclusion is a very real, very specific, and very damaging behavioral tendency coming from the social justice-oriented Left. It comes more often than not from white people who aren’t actually part of the marginalized groups they are claiming to defend, acting from a sort of ‘purity politics’ as opposed to having an actual stake in the issue. These folks are quick to label pretty much anything as cultural appropriation, often without any historical understanding of what they are calling out and absolutely without any attention paid to detail or nuance.

I witnessed an epidemic of this behavior over the past month, in the form of online discussion going back and forth– almost solely by white people in the United States–regarding Day of the Dead and cultural appropriation. There was a dizzying number of personal posts, shared articles, and “community call-outs” warning all people of European descent to “stay in their lane” regarding “Day of the Dead,” lecturing them on how any attempts to celebrate such a holiday was an act of cultural appropriation that was harmful to Latin American people.

This is the perfect example of where the right-wing is actually quite accurate in their critiques. Such proclamations, especially without any real citations or historical backup, are nothing more than moral righteousness gone awry. They also double as erasure when it comes to the actual history of such celebrations.


When it comes to those of European descent, Americans in general are a people that lack ancestral or cultural ties. The loss of culture that comes with assimilation in the United States is not just a product of isolationism and exceptionalism, it’s also very much a product of our Protestant roots. Related to this is the fact that Catholicism was historically a minority religion in the United States that was often repressed, attacked, and subjected to widespread discrimination, especially prior to WWII.

Protestantism and Catholicism, while both acting in similarly hegemonic manners, with similar goals in terms of domination of thought, belief, and behavior, operate quite differently in their means towards that end. Catholicism has exerted and spread its power by adopting the crucial cultural elements of any given culture that it overtakes, rewriting and re-inscribing those elements into its own narrative. This accounts for why holidays like Christmas and Easter are chock full of pagan symbolism, for why the Romans built temples to Egyptian gods in Germany during the later years of the Roman Empire, and why practically any given ancient church or basilica in Europe was built right on top of a former Pagan sacred site. The Catholic strategy has predominantly been to annex indigenous traditions, and historically speaking it has been a very successful strategy.

Protestantism has often taken a different strategy, one most clearly seen in the birth, growth, and development of what we now call America. Instead of adopting the cultural elements of those they subjugated into their own narrative, Protestantism demanded an abandonment of those elements. It demanded that one forsake their own cultural traditions and assimilate into Protestant culture. This may not have been so painful for those Americans whose ancestors came from Protestant cultures, but for those whose ancestors came from Catholic cultures, it was a great loss. Countless celebrations, rituals, and folk traditions which are still practiced widely in Europe today are mostly lost to Americans whose ancestors came from those very countries and cultures where they are still practiced.

And of course, given how much Protestantism and Capitalism are and have always been close and convenient bedfellows in the United States, Capitalism has always been able to fill the void left by the abandonment of non-Protestant ancestral cultures. This is the primary reason why Halloween is not only considered by the rest of the world to be an American holiday, but within America it is arguably the most popular in terms of mass participation and cultural buy-in.

Despite a small but vocal group of fundamentalist Christians who argue otherwise, Halloween is the most part a secular holiday, one embraced by immigrants and American-born folks alike. It is for the most part focused on fun and consumerism, so much so that the majority of the population fails to recognize the way it acts as a substitute for what, in most cultures of Catholic origin, is a rather somber and reverent time of year, one in which remembrance and worship of the dead is the primary focus.


This takes me back to my point regarding the misguided claims of cultural appropriation. “Dìa de los Muertos” and the much larger concept of “Day of the Dead” are not the same thing. The former is specifically the form that the latter takes in Latin American countries. The latter is a tradition that both historically and currently is recognized across the Catholic world, both amongst colonized people as well as those who have historically been colonizers.

And yes, there are many problematic aspects when it comes to white Americans celebrating the former, especially the way it has been fetishized and commodified. Absolutely no argument there from me: as I said above, I would never argue that cultural appropriation is not a real issue that results in tangible harm. But extending that to referencing “Day of the Dead” as being something that white Americans should not touch is extremely misguided, especially because a significant amount of white Americans come from ancestral backgrounds in which Day of the Dead was and still is widely celebrated.

November 1 in France is what is known as “Toussaint”, or All Saints’ Day. Most businesses are closed. Most people have the day off. Church services on this day are as detailed as they are on Christmas or Easter. Florists work double-time all week to satisfy the number of orders of flowers that people take to the graveyard that day. Beyond the specific aesthetics and traditions that define Dìa de los Muertos, what’s going on in France here today looks rather similar to the former in terms of tradition and ritual.

Why, you ask? Because they have the same origin.

And the same can be seen over the course of the same week in Italy, in Spain, in Ireland, in Portugal, as well as other countries with strong ties to Catholicism. Because Day of the Dead as a whole is a Catholic tradition, one that was mostly lost to the descendants of Catholic immigrants to the United States due to the US being a country and culture conceived in Protestantism, a country which demanded assimilation into a Protestant aesthetic in exchange for the benefits of the ‘American Dream’.

Mind you, it’s important to recognize that the true origins of traditions such as Day of the Dead pre-date Catholicism and have pagan origins. That’s another reason why they are so insistently eschewed and suppressed by Protestants: because the Protestants recognize those origins full well and consider them (as well as so many other aspects of Catholicism) to be evil and “Satanic”.

And while in terms of pre-Christian traditions regarding the dead, “Samhain” is by far the most well-known (and therefore adopted into the majority of modern Pagan traditions), the traditions that currently take place in the aforementioned European countries not only are linked by Catholicism, they are similarly linked in regards to their pre-Christian origins.


When I read and hear this constant righteous lecturing on how and why white people have no business participating in Day of the Dead rituals, I also can’t help but to think back to the three weeks I spent in Mexico in 2010. I was there from mid-October to early November, over the course of the Dìa de los Muertos celebrations. And being a culturally-aware, social justice-oriented type who was always very careful to not engage in cultural appropriation and who wanted to “stay in my lane,” I decided at the onset to adopt the position of an observer throughout the various celebrations and rituals that were taking place.

But every single time that I stood back and chose to watch rather than participate, I was met with looks and gestures that ranged from confusion to hurt feelings. And every single time one of the locals encouraged me to step up and participate and would explain in detail what was occurring and why, as they were always under the impression that I was standing back due to lack of knowledge, as opposed to the fear and/or belief that to do so was inappropriate for a white person. Every single time, it was made very clear to me that not only was I welcome to engage in the ongoings, but that they actively wanted me to do so, that they considered it a matter of hospitality to make sure that I was actively engaged. Not only that, but a few people confided in me that in general, although they knew it was not my intention, it was considered rude not to participate.

And while I’m very aware that there’s a difference between being invited to participate in cultural rituals that are not your own and commodifying and fetishizing said rituals, whenever I see the most extreme versions of “white people cannot do this no matter what,” all I can think of were the reactions of my hosts when I chose to step back.

The bottom line is this: aside from the capitalist influence, which obviously is huge, the primary reason that white people, especially white Americans, appropriate from marginalized traditions is because they’ve been stripped of their own. And if we want white Americans to stop doing that, the best remedy is to encourage them to respectfully and carefully learn about and reclaim their own ancestral traditions. We can’t have it both ways. American identity is in part defined by a cultural hole, one which the shallow creations of capitalism simply cannot adequately fill. And so those who recognize that loss will try to fill it.

And they will likely try to fill it with what is easiest for them to access, which is why erasing the history behind celebrations like Day of the Dead and framing it as though it is solely a Latin American tradition that white people should not touch is a disservice to everyone affected. It does very little to stem the tide of cultural appropriation, it erases the history of Day of the Dead as it pertains to European ethnic groups, and the lack of nuance in such arguments only feeds and adds to the legitimacy of right-wing criticisms.

And so I repeat, once more: specificity and nuance are so fucking important when we criticize and/or judge and/or discuss issues such as cultural appropriation. If you’re going to call something or someone out, do your homework. Know your history. And for the love of the gods, stop sharing un-cited, prescriptive social justice articles that lecture people on what they should and should not do.


Alley Valkyrie

Alley Valkyrie is an writer, artist, and spirit worker currently living in Rennes, France. She is one of the co-founders of Gods&Radicals and has been interacting with a wide assortment of both gods and radicals for nearly twenty years now. When she’s not talking to rivers and cats or ranting about capitalism, she is usually engaged in a variety of other projects. She can also be supported on Patreon.


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White Privilege in Dutch Anarchism

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi, on race, colonialism, and identity

Author’s note: “De Pinkster Land Dagen (Pentecost days in dutch) started in 1927 by young anarchists from the Netherlands. In 1933, they bought a potato field from which they made a camping site, and where they organize a drug/alcohol free Anarchist festival every year.”

At Pinkster Land Dagen 2017, University of Color gave a workshop on white privilege and “post”-colonial identity as an attempt to start a conversation about decolonizing anarchism. The workshop and talk was difficult and many of the responses were problematic to many different degrees. We don’t believe this was due to a few loose cannons in the audience, but more likely illustrated the systemic problems in these circles that we aimed to tackle with the workshop.

This attempt requires a tremendous amount of emotional labour on the part of the UoC members, and here we would like to outline why.

  • This is not a philosophical discussion about subjects we read in books. It’s about the pain we are still feeling now, and struggle with every day. Books can help white people learn about this, and for people of color to find the vocabulary to express and process this pain. If you are a white man and you don’t listen to women of color on issues of racism and sexism, don’t be surprised when they choose not to listen to you. If you think you understand racism better than people of color then you are exercising white privilege, white supremacy and reproducing colonizer’s attitudes.
  • If white people are hurt or offended when they are called ‘white’ this is called White Fragility. This means that they experience the issue of ‘race’ so rarely, that when they are confronted with this statement, the situation itself is the worst version of discrimination they have faced. People of color are confronted with this so often that if they reacted extravagantly every time someone pointed out their race, they literally would not be able to do anything else in life. It would also probably lead to arrest or death.. One person calling you white is not the same as a whole world, institutions, governments, policies, armies, physical violence, history and so on constantly labeling you and controlling your life. Color-blindness is an offensive exercise of white privilege and does not help people of color, or lead to the eradication of racism. Denying the problem because you get to does not lead to solving the problem for those who actually suffer from it.
  • There is no such thing as ‘reverse racism’. Calling someone white is not a racist act, it’s only a statement of a fact, the fact that there is Institutionalized racism, there has been for hundreds of years, and white people just do not experience it. It’s called white privilege and this is not a racist statement. Racism is not discrimination based on skin color, it’s systematic institutionalized oppression of people of color and the ‘global south’ since the genocide of our people and our culture by western European entities.
  • Equating colonial violence in Latin America to the Dutch struggle between Catholics and Protestants: Don’t. Color blindness/white privilege at play again.
  • Equating culture to nation states: Culture is something people in colonized countries had to fight to preserve in-spite of European nation states. We are proud of our culture and we fight to preserve it, it does not mean we are proud of our Government. It’s also problematic that the anarchists that present this argument don’t acknowledge the existence of the anarchist culture they so cherish.
  • What’s wrong with white European men leading indigenous, feminist, and other Latin American movements? Everything. Indeed white men can be aware of the issues, but they also need to be aware of how much space they take, and to allow the space for people to speak for themselves. We don’t want to need the validation of white European men because this is just another exercise of colonial attitudes. Even with the best intentions, white dutch anarchist men acting like they know better around people from the ‘global south’ creates an incredibly unsafe environment for people of color. They can try, but they just don’t understand what it’s like for immigrants of color, and how we often feel like we need to ask permission to be somewhere, or to say or do something.
  • If you are a white person and you truly feel like you know better than a person of color when it comes to racism, or you know better how to communicate ideas on the subject… stop and think ‘Where is this feeling coming from?’ ‘Where is it rooted?’ ‘Is it valid?’. It’s coming from entitlement, which comes from being a white European. It’s rooted in white supremacy, it’s not valid and it can create an unsafe environment for people of color. For instance, it is very problematic when Dutch people try to educate a Brazilian woman on Brazilian ‘post´-colonial identity.
  • As a white dutch anarchist it’s important to realize that disagreeing with a person of color doesn’t just mean philosophical differences with any other fellow comrade, but a very real and practical exercise of racial power. Because white dutch anarchists have the access to resources, spaces and history in the Netherlands. These disagreements lead to alienation and series of racial micro-agressions that make it virtually impossible for people of color to stay in a white dutch anarchist space without feeling subjugated.
  • For instance: Tone policing. ‘We agree (in theory) with what you are saying but we don’t like how you are saying it’. That is to say: you are probably right because I’ve read it in a book, but I don’t like it that you are so emotional about it because it’s not ‘gezellig’ or respectful to us. The thing is that of course we are emotional about it because we are still suffering and our wounds are still open. Many white people are willfully ignorant to this because it’s in their best interest to maintain the [racist] status quo, while also maintaining the “not racist” label.

Decolonization and Identity

Almost every time I tell someone they are white or Dutch, they respond defensively with: “But you are kind of white too”, or “you’re not black,” or the best one “How would you feel if I called you Latina or Brazilian?” It’s laughable and worrying that they take such a statement as an attack. Yes, I am Latin American, and I am Brazilian. No, I am not black. That doesn’t change the fact that they are white and Dutch.

I think they do this because they think that me labeling them what they are and pointing out their privileges implies I don’t have privileges and therefore I’m better. It’s actually the opposite, I point out their privileges because I see them in myself.

This wrong assumption is a serious aggression to people of color because Western Europeans have always felt comfortable labeling others while remaining neutral, and this has been paramount to the persistence of white supremacy. It’s also very telling of how unusual and repulsive it is to them to feel subjugated based on their skin color or nationality, which people of color are way too used to. Having to admit they cannot be the objective voice of reason on a subject for once is incredibly painful to people suffering from white fragility. And when it comes to racism and decoloniality, they are not the voice of reason that should lead the movement. For once they will not be the center of attention, and we do not want a seat at their table.

I’m an incredibly privileged person, and I’m always trying to deal with this privilege carefully, critically and consciously. It’s tricky to recognize when you are being treated differently or being discriminated against, because you can’t switch passports or skin color freely. Sometimes we don’t see the micro-agressions and oppression because we know nothing else. This leads to a lot of gaslighting, paranoia and many even believe black people are collectively suffering from post traumatic slavery syndrome.

Ironically, I learned a lot about what it is like to be Brazilian/Latina, and be treated as such, only after I became European. At borders, at clubs, with partners, with other Brazilians, it completely changed. Traveling was so much easier, at borders I felt confidence and entitlement as opposed to anxiety and fear. Strange white men didn’t flirt with me as aggressively or asked me to dance and shake my ass.

After 10 years outside of Brazil my skin became lighter due to less sun and my hair straighter due to less humidity, which also made clear the difference between being treated as a white girl or a Latina. People were inclined to think I was in Europe to study as opposed to ‘work,’ both implying I was in Europe to ‘better’ myself, and implicitly expecting gratitude from me. Brazilians started talking to me as if I lived like a princess and knew nothing of the turmoil and struggle of Brazilian life. I was always fierce and political as a kid, but the European passport in particular was a radicalizing turn of events.

The alienation from all sides pushed me to take the issue of Identity and belonging very seriously. White Western European people have lived sheltered from these kinds of experiences so they haven’t had the unavoidable motivation to explore their whiteness. So, white people, take this into consideration because a revolution is coming and you need to decide, you are either with us or against us. “decolonization is always a violent phenomenon” (Fanon)

I’ve never felt safe in this space (PL and the Dutch white-anarchist-activist scene). Even though it’s wonderful that so many people to some degree acknowledge the problem of white supremacy, and want to make this community safer, it’s been an uphill battle for me in the last 7 years and I’m tired of it.

It’s great that people see the need for these kinds of discussions and aim for diversity in the community. However, it’s not great to rely on people of color to do the work for you, and we hope white anarchists find ways to address and solve this problem themselves.

References: Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Gloria Wekker, bell hooks, Frantz Fanon, Paulo Freire and Maria Lacerda de Moura.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Intersectional feminist and decolonial activist

The Anger of White Men

One night when I was twelve, my cousins introduced me to the band Tool’s album Undertow. During the golden age of the compact disc, musicians could add “secret” tracks to their albums. This was a great motivation to listen to the album all the way through without skipping, well before playing songs at random was the norm. Sometimes there were “negative tracks,” coded in such a way that you wouldn’t hear the song if you skipped to the track, unless you rewound it into the negative count. The most common hidden track was tacked on to the end of the album—songs, skits, or other strange found content accessible if you sat through long minutes of waiting. The secret track of Tool’s Undertow album, “Disgustipated,” did this twice: it was the 69th track on the CD, with tracks 10-68 being a few seconds of silence, and after the song itself there is another, creepier conclusion.

The song begins with a preacher talking to a herd of sheep, speaking of a vision of carrots fearing harvest day, the day they will be devoured. Then a repetitive, hypnotic chant begins: “This is necessary. / This is necessary. / Life, feeds on / Life, feeds on…” I had no idea what to make of this, but more unnerving was the true ending of the album. When the song ends, there is a long stretch of cricket noises, before finally a man’s insistent, emotionless monotone tells a story. “It was daylight when you woke up in your ditch. You looked up at your sky then. That made blue be your color.” It continues, surreal and without any apparent plot, before ending with the sound of a phone hanging up.

My cousins lived in a house on land that had been in my family’s possession for a few generations, at the outer edge of a northern town in Indiana that lay in the nebulous boundary between rural and suburban. Behind their house was a dense forest that extended for miles, near as I could tell, broken by fields. Some summer days we spent hours in those woods and fields. It was a quiet, somber land. The kind of town that people imagine when they speak of Indiana.

I lived two hours away in central Indiana, a place further into the nebulous boundary between suburban and urban, where wealthier people lived. Not at all the kind of place people imagine when they speak of Indiana. During summers and long weekends my mom would drive me up an hour where we’d meet my aunt, who’d driven down, to transfer me between cars so I could go with them back to their place. It was a reprieve from the bullying and loneliness of my home life.

Musical exchange was a part of how my cousins and I connected. One was a boy my age, with whom I spent the most time, but occasionally we would be allowed into the space of his older brother, who initiated me into the adolescent mysteries of pornography, cigarettes, and marijuana. Though we were all part of the same extended Catholic family, these boys seemed less preoccupied with purity and punishment than I was. They read horror fiction and introduced me to industrial and heavy metal music, stuff that sounded like Satan. It terrified me. Of course I kept coming back for more.

That night, we discussed “Disgustipated” for far too long, sifting it for secrets. In those days, everything felt suffused with an occult meaning. Adulthood held its mysteries aloft, teasing us with the promise that eventually we would understand. I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking of the psychotic chanting and the man’s bizarre story. Nights at their house were quieter than the ones I had at home, even with the incessant noise of frog and cicada, giving my anxious mind ample space to ruminate. In my fearful imagination I saw, in the deep shadows of the forest, men in white Ku Klux Klan robes walking the earth, spreading terror. I sensed terror and anger from the land.

The distance between my cousins and I was as much class and sexuality as geography, I understand now. My father had grown up working class but was aggressively working his way up the white collar ladder, simultaneously resenting and wanting to impress his wealthier colleagues. I was a shy, anxious, introverted, unathletic Catholic kid who was terrified of sin and hell and only beginning to sense my queer desires.

My cousins, on the other hand, loved sports, breasts, heavy metal, and video games. While school came easily to me, both struggled, and at an early age they put a stop to my obnoxious tendency to correct their grammar. Their father alternated between teaching jobs and construction work, at times quitting his job in an act of defiance. The cousin my age inherited his father’s anger. He would get enraged at seemingly nothing, rant and rave, and inflict violence on the walls and floors of the house with whatever means available. All this happened when he was a kid, not even a teenager.

They were not the only white boys with anger. Friends of mine throughout junior high and high school knew it in various ways. They listened to white men singing angry punk and metal anthems, raging against political and social injustice, or venting personal grievances against lovers and parents. We went out in the dark to commit random acts of vandalism and property damage, just because. I participated in my way, even enjoyed some of the same music, but my anger was turned inward. We all sat around campfires, drinking, singing, talking, but I feared my queerness would get me exiled and beaten. Instead of raging against authority and injustice, I raged against my own sinful ungovernability. Boys who could have been my comrades I saw as potential threats, their anger something I learned to fear.

Why were we so angry? I wonder this often, particularly as the anger of white men glows brightly in our culture like hot embers, ready to ignite with the breeze. My imagination of Klan members in the forest was not random. Throughout my childhood I took note of the racist graffiti in bathrooms, heard the racist jokes shared between white people, and learned in school about the second, nativist wave of the Ku Klux Klan flourishing in early twentieth century Indiana. Then, as now, economic desperation had given rise to nationalist exclusion and white supremacy. Then, as we will see in the future, this brought only suffering and disappointment.

My cousins and I drifted further apart as time and class widened the gulf between us. I saw no future for me in Indiana, no path forward that would give me the social connection, cultural stimulation, and opportunity for intimacy I craved, so I moved to Chicago. When I was finishing my undergraduate education, I went back for a family reunion and confessed to my uncle and older cousin that I realized I was intimidated by the working world. My cousin, who never finished high school, grinned ferociously and said, “We’ll eat you alive!”

I let myself be hurt by this at the time, but now I wonder about the anger behind his words. He was smart. He read as much as I did. He wrote. His struggles in school and at home were largely behavioral. Years before he said this, I woke up to hearing my uncle throw him out of the house for some offense. Having worked with homeless teenagers, I understand better how deeply painful this rejection is, even for the most stoic child. He never finished high school, and his town had few opportunities for someone without a degree. When his parents eventually let him move back home, he seemed to withdraw entirely. Rarely any romantic relationship, getting a job working the night shift, coming home to smoke pot and sleep all day.

I wonder if his father had a context for valuing his son’s intelligence and encouraging him to cultivate that. I wonder if his father had his own failed dreams and grievances, his anger at being ruled by the whims of others. Nothing in my cousins’ lives encouraged them to reach beyond the limits of the town and its political and economic realities. I could very easily see either of them spending hours on the Internet, getting radicalized by the alt-right.

Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, has remarked that the band’s fans seem unable to appreciate the humor in his music. “Insufferable people . . . I’m sorry. Can’t help them. Way too serious. Too much. Lighten up.” Listening to “Disgustipated” now, I recognize the song as tongue-in-cheek, probably ridiculing folks who cannot accept our needs as animals to eat other living things. The closing story, according to the Internet, was a phone message left on Keenan’s answering machine by his landlord, possibly a rambling manifestation of a hallucinogenic trip the man was on. Meaningless drivel, so abstracted that searching it for meaning is akin to trying to weave a sock out of a spiderweb. Another promise of childhood proven to be an illusion.

During the summer of 2016, I was coming to the end of a long arc, seven years that included the dissolution and resurrection of my career. The recession of 2008 pushed me into the kinds of service jobs that I’d avoided for so long. This was the “being eaten alive” which my cousin had predicted, during which I learned that no one is too good for a job, all labor is challenging, and everyone deserves dignity and fair pay in their work. In a grief circle at a polytheist conference, I confessed something I did not understand: I felt cheated. I felt there was a life I was supposed to have that was now impossible, thanks to the decaying world and shifting economy. I recognized, as I said it, how entitled it was coming from a privileged white man. Yet there it was.

The more I thought on it, the more I recognized it as the same wounded entitlement shared by many white men. It is what Susan Faludi discussed in her book from the year 2000, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Rather than pathologizing this anger or essentializing this pain as a toxic ingredient of manhood, Faludi rather compassionately explores the ways that economic shifts have devalued the jobs, skills, and social roles of men without providing a life-affirming alternative. These conditions have only worsened as declining economic opportunities limit the opportunities of men and boys for whom middle management and programming work are not easily accessible. Instead, they have their parents’ basements and memes. It is the festering wound of white masculinity that drew so many toward a president who promised the impossible, that he could bring back a way of life long gone.

Remembering my childhood vision of terror in the forests, I contemplate of the relationship between European settlers and the land that would be claimed as the United States. People from distant shores, escaping enclosure and disenfranchisement, hoping this soil would be a place where they could establish the wealth and autonomy denied them. Unacquainted with the spirits of the land, people huddling together in their townships. The forest around them was an adversarial realm, harboring every person, plant, and animal hostile to the settlers’ presence. This fear of the forest is, I believe, engrained in the cultural soul of the white US citizen. Our literary history points to this, from the 2015 movie The Witch in which the forest harbors Satanic horrors; to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” in which the titular character witnesses a black mass outside the borders of his town. H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction epitomizes this trend in American literature. His white supremacy is central to his vision of horror, in my opinion, as every monster emerges from the bodies and spirits crushed under the weight of white identity.

As white men, anger and betrayal might be the unfinished business of our ancestors. Ours are the ancestors who learned to blame themselves for their suffering, to individualize their anger and see their neighbors as competitors rather than allies. Ours are the ancestors who sacrificed their unique cultures for the unsatisfying pseudo-culture of whiteness. Our ancestors allowed racism, sexism, and hatred of the other to divide themselves from those with whom they had common cause. All for the promise that if they simply worked hard enough, they would have wealth, ease, and love. A promise that has been broken over and over, a promise that increases the wealth and power of the elite while we cling even harder to the lie.

We have been given a shitty deal. Theodore W. Allen talked about white privilege as a “baited hook,” something that traps us even as it seems to give us a treat. Deep down, we know the wealth we desire comes from the oppression of others. We know our anger keeps us from the solidarity we desperately crave. The system that exploits our dreams and desires wants us to be hateful and wary of women, people of color, and queer folk. It wins when we see ourselves as competitors fighting over scraps rather than comrades who demand more.

Our ancestors oppressed and colonized, but that’s not all they did. We have ancestors who joined with Black people in the fight against slavery and segregation. We have ancestors who fought for freedom, social equality, better wages, the right for people of all classes, races, and genders to vote. We do not have to bear our burdens alone. All we need to do is be willing to share the burden of others. We can join them in the forest.

Let’s turn our anger to the people who benefit from keeping our wages depressed, not the people who take whatever they can get to support their families. Let’s turn our anger to the banks who foreclosed on our houses and the government that paid for their mistakes. Let’s turn our anger to those who would rather pay us to endanger our lives doing violence in foreign countries than spend that money investing in our healthcare, schools, roads, and bridges—all of which would create jobs. Let’s turn our anger to the corporate practices that dump waste in our water, that eviscerate our forests, that poison our health.

Our anger is fire. With it we can bring warmth to the world. This is necessary.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


Anthony Rella is one of the writers featured in several issues of A Beautiful Resistance. Click the image below to see all our publications.